Community Points – Observations Of A rAge
I read a particularly offensive article the other day about the different types of females one encounters at rAge. These ranged from the super-hot promo girls to the less hot exhibitor girls (the latter being able to converse intelligently about a product) to the reluctant companions (mothers, wives and girlfriends) and the girl gamers themselves (apparently as rare as a hyena in Randburg). I won’t bother linking that article here because (1) you can google for it quite easily and (2) it is largely incoherent but the upshot of that article was that rAge is a predominately white male event and that seeing females is a sight to behold.
I was at rAge this past Saturday and Sunday and my experience of the event was something quite different. I’m not going to write about the hordes of females I saw in the LAN holding their own against their male counterparts (in fact I don’t think I saw any females there) and that girl gamers are the same as boy gamers and should be acknowledged as such. In fact, being someone who most feminists would be ashamed of, I am very aware in the differences between males and females in the gaming world and that by virtue of fundamentally different anatomy, we react to experiences in different ways. I’m just going to write about how this girl felt.
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My first day at the event was an absolute disaster. There were far too many people and you couldn’t really walk anywhere without being groped (accidentally or not). It was also a Johannesburg Summer day at its best which translated to the Dome turning into an actual oven. Due to my own recklessness my phone had been stolen the night before and I naively thought that I would just walk around at rAge and all my friends would find me. They did not. What resulted then was me walking around rAge feeling like a complete fish out of water.
Feeling like a fish out of water is a novel experience for me, generally because I tend to fit in with some measure of success at most social interactions I’m involved in. At first I was flummoxed because (1) I am a gamer and should feel at home at rAge and (2) the fact that I am a girl had nothing to do with it because there were girls everywhere. I thought maybe it was because I tend to be derisive about cos-play and there far too much of that happening for me to stomach and then I started having my nerd-gamer existential crisis again.
Was I out of my depth? Was this an event geared toward (white) males only and to which my presence was an accessory or a gimmick? Were the stereotypical observations about girls at events like this accurate? It was all too much for my brain (admittedly running on only a few hours’ sleep and very hungover) and so I did the only reasonable thing in the circumstances. I went home and took a nap.
I returned to rAge the next day with some newfound vigour and also boosted by my trusty iPad so that I could tweet people I needed to find. This is how social media saves lives kids, it does have its uses. I also had a media pass this time around which I discovered has the effect of (1) a superhero cape or (2) an awesomeness aura. I spent some time doing a walkabout which was so much more pleasant because there were maybe 30% less people there, I didn’t recall any groping and there was significantly less cos-play going on. Once satisfied that I was willing to hang about for a bit, I decided to tweet a friend.
And that was when things started to make a lot more sense. I realised why I had felt like such a fish out of water the day before, it was because fish swim around in schools, they don’t meander about like lone rangers. Even though gaming is by and large a solitary experience for most people, there is a massive community element to it which adds so much richness to that experience. Being able to game is almost only half the fun, being able to talk about gaming and share that with your friends, is the rest. The demographic at rAge is nothing eclectic, generally you find people who are quite nerdy and socially awkward. Maybe to the point where they don’t translate well in most social situations, or with society generally. But that is who rAge and gaming in South Africa brings together, a community where perhaps in the traditional sense people are not hanging out having a beer together but they are crossing swords together. And I realised that that had been what I was missing out on the day before, there had been all these people together with their people and I didn’t have my people.
But I did have my people on the next day and I had so much fun with them. So thank you all for the rAge love. It’s great being part of the family.